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Romney slams Obama over foreign policy

  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney slammed U.S. President Barack Obama's handling of threats in the Middle East on Monday, claiming Obama's lack of leadership had made the volatile region more dangerous.

    In what his campaign labelled as a major foreign policy address, Romney called for a greater use of American influence in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

    Speaking before cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney questioned Obama's handling of events in Libya last month in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed after the American consulate in Benghazi was attacked by militants.

    The former Massachusetts governor also accused Obama of failing to use U.S. diplomacy to influence events in Iran, Iraq, Israel and Syria.

    "The president is fond of saying that, 'The tide of war is receding,'" Romney said. "And I want to believe him as much as anyone. But when we look at the Middle East today ... it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office."

    Though lacking in specifics, Romney's speech did lay out his national security priorities ahead of the second of his three presidential debates with Obama, which takes place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on October 16 and will include discussion of foreign policy.

    He also indicated that he would not rush into armed conflict. At the same time, he accused Obama of a hasty withdrawal from Iraq, stating that the gains there had been negated by rising violence and the resurgence of al-Qaeda.

    Obama considers his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as a fulfilment of a 2008 campaign promise.

    Romney also said Obama was right to order the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 but slated other elements of the president's strategy for the region. He highlighted the extensive U.S. reliance on attacks by drone aircraft, saying they were "no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East."

    During his speech, Romney also vowed to tighten sanctions on Iran and deploy warships to pressure Tehran into giving up a nuclear program the West believes is aimed at producing atomic bombs.

    Romney also pledged that his administration would work with the Syrian opposition and ensure they received weapons required to defeat Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's forces.

    Romney's address came in a bid to portray himself as having the presidential credentials required for the global stage.

    The Obama campaign said his speech was the latest in a series of failed attempts to appear to be a statesman on foreign policy.